Monday, July 13, 2015

My Boyfriend's an Angel (orig. Мой парень - ангел / Moy Paren Angel) [2012]

MPAA (UR would be PG-13)  Fr. Dennis (3 1/2 Stars)

IMDb listing listing* listing* listing* listing*

New Russian Cinema (A. Forman) review (G. Mukhametshin) review* (P. Pryadkin) review* (V. Kavalevich) review* (S. Stepnova) review

My Boyfriend's an Angel (orig. Мой парень - ангел  / Moy Paren Angel) [2012] [IMDb] []*[]*[]* (directed by Vera Storozheva [IMDb] []*[]*[]*, screenplay by Natalya Nazarova [IMDb] []*[]*[]* based on the novel A Christmas Angel (Рождественский ангел / Rozhdestvenskyy Angel) [LiveLib]* by Mark Aren [LiveLib]*[WCat]) is a Russian Christmas err New Years' romcom that while dismissed by some more heavy-handed Russian critics (above), was embraced by others (also above) and especially viewers []*[]*[].*  I viewed / reviewed the film here as part of my 2015 Russian Film Tour.

RusKino's Svetlana Stepnova (review above),* who did actually generally like the film, nevertheless did duly note (quite importantly IMHO...) the vestiges of Soviet Era ideology in the otherwise light Hollywood style romcom:

In the 1920s, the Communists banned the celebration of Christmas in the Soviet Union.  Yet how can one _ban_ Christmas, especially even the various purely cultural aspects of it?  So in the 1930s, the Communist leadership reinstated various trappings of the holiday, moving it over a week to New Years (Dec 31st) from the the traditional Christmas celebration (Dec. 24-25).  So Stepnova notes that in the post-Communist era, by-and-large ONLY IN RUSSIA is a "Christmas Tree" still called a "New Years Tree" and gifts are exchanged by many on New Years rather than on Christmas, and so forth.  Here, and to the point, while the original (contemporary Russian) novel on which the current film is based places the events of the story clearly within the context of the celebration of Christmas (Dec 24-25), the film still shifts them to New Years (Dec 31-Jan 1).  Still viewers of the film will note that other (far more positive) references to Christianity / the Russian Orthodox Church which remained.  (Sigh ... the place of Christianity / the Russian Orthodox Church in contemporary Russian society and especially among contemporary Russia's elite remains somewhat dicey / ambiguous.  See my review of Leviathan [2014]).

Still, aside from the above mentioned concessions to Soviet era ideology and then recognizing that there still remain elements in Russian (Putinesque?) film circles for whom apparently the very idea of a happy little romance remains a putdown-able "petite bourgeois" concern ;-) ... the film is about as happily / positively rated (by Russian viewers []*[]*[]*) as I have seen ;-). 

So what's the setup to the story?

An angel named Saraphim (played by Artur Smolyaninov [IMDb] []*[]*) arrives on Earth (in Moscow) on the night of Dec 30th.  He doesn't even quite know why he arrived there, 'cept that he's "there to help."  Who?  He's not sure either, but it doesn't seem to bother him 'cause he's pretty certain that "God's will, will be done."  He does seem, _slightly odd_ though.  An older woman noticing him passing through a park notes: "You foreigners never wear seem to wear a hat and then complain that Russia is cold." ;-).  He kindly acknowledges her comment, perhaps advice, and just keeps strolling on his way.

The next morning, a 20-something Moscow college (geology) student named Sasha (played by Anna Starshenbaum [IMDb] []*[]*) is woken-up by a phone call, "What time is it?" she asks as she picks up the phone. "5 PM," the voice on the other end answers.  "OMG!" she thinks she's slept through the day, "In Kamchatka ;-)," the voice continues.  It's her dad (played by Sergey Puskepalis [IMDb] []*[]*).  He, who's out there in Kamchatka as a volcanologist, tells her that he's going to be flying through Moscow later that evening, New Years (presumably for some conference in Europe somewhere), and that it'd be nice to meet-up.  Besides, he tells her that he has a guy, fellow geologist, traveling with him, that he'd like her to meet.  "But dad, I already have a boyfriend."  "Gr8 then bring him along, I'd like to meet him!" "Argh dad, okay ..." (She would have had other plans, but when dad's passing though, all the way from Kamchatka, one accomodates ;-).

So getting-up, she skype's her boyfriend Valery (played by Nikita Efremov [IMDb] []*[]*) to tell him of the change of plans.  But by skyping him rather than calling him, she gets to see more than she wants, "Who's the girl in nothing but the red ... who just walked past you to the bathroom?" "No one." "Valery, I'm not blind.  I just saw a young woman in nothing but red ... walk right behind you to your bathroom."  "Oh, her.  She's a cousin from ..."  "Valery, you're an idiot, and ... we're done."  She clicks end to the conversation.

But what now?   She's just told her father that she has a boyfriend, who he's said then he wants to meet.  And three minutes later, she's broken-up with ... said boyfriend.  While she's quickly thinking through alternatives, she notices that her lovely (and lively) presumably INDOOR cat has found her way somehow out her window and is now standing on the ledge of said window.  Sasha goes to grab her from her perch on the window, but ... the cat gracefully jumps to the ledge of the next (neighbor's) window.  The only way not to get her is to reach from her window to the ledge of the next.  Seeing that this would be difficult, Sasha does something stupid (but then lots of things are going on ..., so she's not thinking clearly....):  She climbs onto the ledge of her window in an attempt to catch her cat ... and ... Sasha falls from her window ... 3 stories down ... and ... guess who's there right there on the sidewalk below her window to break her fall? ... ;-) ... and until Sasha comes crashing down on him, Serephim doesn't know why he'd be there, at that exact point at that exact time, either ... The rest of the story follows ;-)

This is just a really cute story.  Yes, Svetlana Stepnova of (review above) notes that it'd be hard to believe that a humble geology student with a mere volcanogist as her father would have been able to afford the apartment in the center of Moscow where she finds herself, but I would note that most people in New York don't necessarily live like Jerry Seinfeld and his friends did in his TV series either ;-).

What follows is a lovely Russian rom-com that perhaps showcases the trappings of upper-middle class life in Moscow today (glitzy shopping malls, very nice "Starbucks style" cafes, etc).  But honestly, it's not bad to see _occasionally_ a movie like this coming from Russia, or else we in the West would only imagine Russia to be covered by soot-covered snow with grey, dour / utterly joyless prols simply wielding pick-axes / welders'-torches, standing in bread-lines.  Yes, I do understand: Downtown Chicago _also_ looks far better than much of the rest of my city, but it does exist as well, and as in most cities, people travel from one section of town to another in the course of their day-to-day business. 

So good job folks, good job.  If this would be the only kind of movie coming out of Russia, then that'd be one thing.  But in the absence of films like this (showing generally happy young people with typical young people's concerns), many Westerners would honestly think that there'd be no reason for any sane Russian to want to remain Russian at all.


How to see this film?  As with the other films in the series of recent Russian films that I've chosen to write about here, this film is quite widely available, in Russian, on the internet.  The challenge is finding the subtitles for it.  I found the subtitles for the current film on  Note that sometimes the subtitles file has to be synchronized to the video.  This can be done using a freeware program called Easy Subtitles Synchronizer.

* Reasonably good (sense) translations of non-English webpages can be found by viewing them through Google's Chrome browser. 

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